The Chanute High School girls basketball program opened up practice this week in one of the more uncertain times in the history of the United States. Unfortunately, the team has already been impacted due to myriad of circumstances.
CHS head coach Dustin Fox has confirmed that he is only practicing with around half of his team due to COVID-19, injuries and general illness. He said that at one point this week, 11 student-athletes were out, leaving just 13 of 24 being able to practice.
“...I would just say we had 11 kids out the other day for a variety of reasons, some of them are quarantines, COVID-related, whether that be testing positive or they have a close contact of a family member, something like that,” Fox said. “There’s a variety of reasons and we had some injuries on top of that. So, it’s definitely a different feel and different start to this year, probably than in any other year that I’ve ever coached. When almost half your team is not available for your first two practices, it’s a little different.
“It’s the world we live in right now. These things are going to happen to pretty much all programs at some point in time or another. It’s just a matter of doing everything they can to try and mitigate the exposure and the chances of it happening. But it’s just the world we live in right now.”
Players have been gradually returning several days this past week, and even more will be able to make their 2020 debut after Thanksgiving break.
Still, Fox said his team is doing the best they can to overcome the obstacles at hand. In fact, the 10th-year head coach said he is impressed with his student-athletes, so much so that he is confident his program can turn this entire situation into a positive.
Fox, along with assistants Shannon Bogle and Jerrod Richards, is coordinating with mostly freshmen and sophomores that have been trooping through the circumstances. Fox said this can even help the team in the long run.
“It’s going to help us, I think, if we can kind of survive these different challenges because those kids are getting a ton more reps than if some of our older kids were there. They are taking on bigger roles than they would otherwise,” he said. “It’s a chance for them to grow and a chance for them to kind of show what they are capable of doing, and we really like the group that we have.”
One of those players is junior guard and forward Jacelyn Catron, one of the veterans of the team.
“Practice is going really well this year,” Catron said. “We as a team have been working really hard on getting our offensive concepts and getting us back into basketball shape. Me personally with a lot of the upperclassmen being gone, I have had to take a more vocal leadership position and help our new players adjust to our way of playing.”
As of right now, Fox has installed the transition offense, the half-court offense and defense, and the press break. After getting a grasp on those, it was all about repetition for the Lady Blue Comets.
Fox will utilize the game plans installed but also run fewer set plays, though the team doesn’t run set plays much anyway. The thinking, he said, is that it is paramount to keep the game as simple as possible in a time when players are likely to go in and out of the lineup because of COVID-19.
“We’ll have even less (plays) this year,” Fox said. “It’s just that you need time to rep those things and get the timing down. With so many kids gone now, and potentially gone at different times, it’s hard to do those things well, at least in my mind. We’re going to keep it simple. We’re going to try and play concept basketball, where these are our offensive concepts, these are our defensive concepts and rely on those things as opposed to a lot of different sets.”
Defense will be the same way.
Coming off of a 13-8 season – a campaign in which the program didn’t lose for a month straight and won its sixth League title after going 7-3 in the SEK – Chanute played until the first round of the Class 4A sub-state playoffs. With three returning starters and just two lost to graduation, Chanute will try to go for their first State appearance since 2012 when it’s time to lace up the sneakers for the 2020-21 season.